At Washington DC’s Awesome Con, Andrew and Kinsey had the opportunity to speak with comic book writer and filmmaker Kyle Higgins!
Kyle is a strong creative force within the comic book world who has written for characters from both the DC and Marvel Comics franchises such as Batman, Captain America, Wolverine, Nightwing, and Winter Soldier. He is also well known for his work on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comics released by Boom! Studios.
In addition to writing for pre-existing franchises, he has also written several of his own original series such as C.O.W.L., The Dead Hand, and Hadrian’s Wall, which he is currently adapting into a feature film.
Check out our conversation below and let us know what you think!
I read something cool about how the first movie that peaked your interest in comic books and film was the first Superman movie. Early in your career you got to intern for Richard Donner. Can you talk about that experience?
I was an intern when I was 21 years old so I would drive up twice a week to Beverly Hills from Orange, California where I went to college. It was about an hour and a half drive each way because of traffic, but the first Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman really introduced me not only to cinema, but to comic books. So I cherished the opportunity to work for him and his wife Lauren who is an amazing producer. She had done all the X-Men movies and the first X-Men movie was very influential on why I ultimately decided to go to film school. I followed it’s development and production on the internet through rumors and set photos and things like that. That was the first time I really got immersed in making up something. It was just a tremendous opportunity. As an intern, you’re getting people coffee, you’re doing coverage on scripts, or you’re answering phones and things like that, but a few really cool things came out of it. I got to spend a bit of time talking to Dick, who could not be nicer. I worked for Tom Mankiewicz after that who kind of became my mentor while I was in college. He wrote the first Superman as well as four James Bond movies. He had given me an original one sheet for the first Superman and after he passed away I asked my friend Derek Hoffman who’s still with Donner if Dick would sign it for me. So Dick signed it and said “To Kyle: Hope to sign your DGA card.” So it was a pretty fantastic experience.
I wanted to ask about the Power Ranger comics you did for Boom! Studios. You took the franchise to a whole new level in terms of storytelling and went a little bit darker and more mature than the series. Was there ever any push back from Saban with any of the stories you wanted to tell?
Everything’s a conversation. When you’re doing work with characters that you don’t own or control, everything’s a conversation. When you say we took it darker, I guess that’s one take on it. I would argue that I took it to more complex territory. I think a lot of times people conflate complex and sophisticated with dark and edgy and they’re not the same thing. You can have darker stuff that is also complex and sophisticated, but a lot of times people make things that are just dark and edgy and cynical without staying true to the spirit of what made it resonate for people in the first place. I was just looking to come in and try to build something that played to the strengths of the medium and wasn’t limited by some of the elements that the show was limited by like budget and pre-existing footage and things like that. In comics you can kind of do anything. It’s really down to your imagination and the limiting factors are your imagination and the artists abilities and their imagination. I had a great team of artists on my run and we just tried to push it in new directions and, like I said, everything’s a conversation so a lot of the story choices I made, I built out the narrative reasons for them and certain things they were super on-board with and other things we had to have a conversation about.
Is there anything you weren’t allowed to do or ideas you had that you weren’t able to use?
Yeah, I’m sure there were things that I ultimately wasn’t able to execute. Nothing really is coming to mind. I think originally during Shattered Grid I wanted to show a wider swath of Tommy Olivers across the multiverse. Not in a way of like “Hey we watched Drakkon go and kill all these Tommy Olivers” but more in the end reveal to hit home the point that Lord Drakkon is the only Tommy in the multiverse to stay evil and to choose that. To really hammer home that point, I wanted to see more Tommys but it ultimately wasn’t really feasible because it created a lot of questions at the licensor level of like “Well how many Tommys are there? What does this look like? Do we have to spell out every dimension or universe of the multiverse?” It was just easier to kind of not have to dive into that. That was not a fight that was worth having, especially that late in the game.
As a Power Rangers fan, one of the coolest things I’ve seen was a video where you guys did the Shattered Grid Live reading at the last Power Morphicon. What was it like getting to see your work come to life in that way?
It was great. I put that together with Mat Groom and Michael Busuttil, the guys from the Ranger Danger podcast. Michael did all the art cut ups and Mat helped me write the new interstitial text and we also cleaned up some of the dialogue so that it was easier to perform from the comics. But the scenes by and large are exactly what they were in the book. It was a little bit of a trippy experience because I had fallen on stage right before the panel started and I actually tore my ACL and my meniscus. I knew it was really bad, but I still did the panel and it was very much an out-of-body experience. Under the table my knee was like swelling up and I knew it was going to be really bad, but the whole time during that panel the room was so warm in an energized way. I mean every single line connected. It was like a thousand people standing room only by the end. To watch these actors, some of whom were performing the characters for the first time in 25 years, was really magical. I kept looking up because my editor Dafna Pleban was there in the audience. Dafna and our assistant editor Michael Moccio were both there and I kept trying to make eye contact with Dafna because it was like “It works! These scenes work, can you believe it?” It’s one thing to see them in print, it’s another thing to hear them performed.
We actually interviewed David Fielding a few months ago and he said that it was the highlight of his entire history with Power Rangers.
It was pretty magical. When he spoke for the first time as Zordon, I brought in audio hardware so we could do the voice live as a surprise to people. The first time he spoke the lines, it was like you could hear the room just lost it. It was really, really special.
On to some of your more recent work, the last issue of your Winter Soldier run came out last month. I know that Bucky Barnes was a character you had been interested in for a long time. What was it like getting to expand on his story?
It was cool! I’ve almost written him a few times over the years, but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. This time I had the right pitch at the right time and Rod Reis was, and still is, doing stuff at Marvel and we had done some Image books together. I felt strongly there was a new direction for Bucky that was respectful of what had come before and wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but could push him forward in his life story as opposed to the revisiting crimes from the Cold War direction that has been used a lot since Ed Brubaker stopped writing the character. I thought the take was really interesting and Tom Brevoort agreed and my only regret is we were only able to do five issues.
I know that you’ve written about several other sidekick characters in the past. You seem to have a fondness for those types of characters. What about them appeals to you?
I don’t know. I think it depends on what point in your life you’re at. It’s weird, like I’m the oldest in my family. I have a younger sister, but I think there was a component that I was always a bit passive as a child and insecure and shy and so the idea of like “Well you couldn’t be Batman, but you could be Robin” really resonated for me. On top of that, the baked in sense of identity issues that come with a character who’s trying to reinvent themselves and get out from under someone else’s shadow is just really interesting to me. Growing up, even though I didn’t have a shadow to get out from under, it was still something that really resonated and I think that’s why the secondary characters always kind of pop for me.
Are there any pre-existing characters you haven’t gotten to write for yet but would be interested in tackling?
I would always do more Nightwing. He’s my all-time favorite character and I wrote his book for three years during the New 52 and there’s stuff in there that I’m proud of. I’ve often felt like it was not what it could have been for a variety of reasons. I would always say more Nightwing, but beyond that I think the Ninja Turtles are probably the last franchise that I haven’t really touched that I was a big fan of as a kid.
I saw that you’re currently working on a feature film. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
It’s called Hadrian’s Wall. It was just announced a few weeks ago. I wrote the first draft so I’m doing a rewrite on it right now. It’s based on my Image series with Alec Siegel and Rod Reis. It’s a big murder mystery on a spaceship.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you want to talk about?
Nothing that I can say yet. I have another number of things that have not been announced yet.